Thursday January 20th, 2005

Memo to Lindsay Davenport: Are you sure you don't want to reconsider this whole retirement thing? Last week Davenport outlasted Venus Williams in the final of the Stanford event. Yesterday, she waxed Serena Williams to win the JP Morgan Chase Open in Los Angeles. Looking a whole lot like the player who swept the California hard-court tournaments in 1998, Davenport has dictated play with hard, heavy, deep shots and simply hasn't done a lot of missing. As the U.S. Open rolls around, she's not playing like the sentimental favorite; she's playing like the favorite. ...

At the RCA Championships in Indianapolis, Andy Roddick started the American hard-court leg exactly where he left off last year: defending his Indy title. He beat Nicolas Kiefer in the final. Kiefer has reached four finals this year. Alas, he is without a title. ...

Another week, another title for Guillermo Canas. In Umag, Croatia, Willie C. capped an impressive week of tennis, beating Filippo Volandri in the final. ...

At the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria, Nicolas Massu beat Gaston Gaudio to win the tourney. ...

Doubles results: In Umag, Jose Acasuso and Flavio (Flav) Saretta beat our guys Jaroslav Levinsky and David Skoch. ... In Kitzbuhel, Frantisek Cermak and Leos Friedl took out Lucas Arnold and Martin Garcia. ... Jordan Kerr and Jim Thomas defeated Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyet in Indianapolis. ... And in L.A., Nadia Petrova and Meghann Shaughnessy outlasted Conchita Martinez and Virginia Ruano Pascual to win the title.

Back to Davenport, you wonder if, after beating Serena so handily, she isn't kicking herself extra hard over that Maria Sharapova match at Wimbledon. ... Speaking of Sharapova, she is back in action this week in San Diego. ...

Staying in Southern California, Friday's Wall Street Journal reported Pete Sampras' house is back on the market. (He'll throw in the propane tank and the left over Kenny G. CD's.) ...

It was a week of squandered match points: In their first encounter since the '03 U.S. Open, Roddick beat Ivan Ljubicic in the Indianapolis semifinals but had to save three match points to do so. That was nothing compared to Rainer Schuettler, who saved ten match points against Italy's Andreas Seppi in Kitzbuhel. ...

Klaas Kwant of Grand Rapids, Mich., wins our Idea-of-the-Week award. He writes: "Is there a central location on the Web that lists what tennis matches are being televised on a variety of networks? Each network lists its coverage, but you have to know which network is covering an event to find the schedule. It would be wonderful if fans could find where the matches were being broadcast by going to a single Web site." ...

If only for the scene-stealing cameo by former tennis pro Torben Ulrich, go see Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. ...

Unsolicited restaurant recommendation for our New York readers: Check out the newly opened Ricardo Steak House on 110th Street and Second Avenue. You won't be disappointed. ...

Interesting Q & A with USTA president Alan Schwartz. ... Check out this Q & A between Patrick Rafter and my redoubtable colleague Richard Deitsch. ...

From the ATP newsletter: "Kenny Wallace gave [Mardy] Fish a tour of his garage area and his car before taking Fish out onto the track for a lap in a Indianapolis Speedway van. The lap did not approach the 190 miles per hour NASCAR drivers will reach during their race, but Fish wouldn't mind trying those speeds once. "I'd probably have to go to the bathroom afterward," he said. "I'd love to. It would be great." (We assume the "great" part refers to the driving and not the subsequent activity.) ...

In Umag, Carlos Moya received a medal of honor by Croatian President Stipe Mesic. "Moya kept returning to Umag even in the years when many evaded the country out of fears from the perils of war, proving that he is a true friend of sport and Croatia." ...

Many of you pointed out there is another Olympic clothing controversy. Note to all parties: Go to a conference room, order some pizza and don't leave until you sort it out. As it stands, everyone comes out of this looking small. ...

And note to the good folks running the JP Morgan Chase Web site: At least a half dozen readers complained about the absence of scores and updated draw sheets. Just playing messenger here. ...

Roddick's SportsCentury feature airs Aug. 30. ...

Randy of Santa Clara, Calif., writes: I just watched Fox Sports Net's Beyond the Glory on Pete Sampras. It was excellent, and I was surprised to learn some things I hadn't known about him. The most notable: Pete placed his first Wimbledon trophy in Tim Gullikson's casket. Very touching." ...

American readers: If you're like me and just can't get jazzed for Olympic tennis, all's not lost these next few weeks. Consider a trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., Aug. 6 to 15, to check out the best American junior boys. ...

Onward ...

As usual, the remarks after the Bank of the West reminded me why I will miss Davenport, but definitely will not miss Venus when she retires. Have there ever been less gracious champions than the Williams sisters? It's sad. I find myself wanting to root against them because of their attitudes. -- Ken Copen, Alameda, Calif.

A lot of you mentioned this. As a rule, I think too many of you unfairly hold Venus (and Serena) to higher standards than other players. The kind of quotes that go unnoticed when made by other players generate all sorts of anger when they come out of the Williams sisters' mouths.

But Venus' remarks --"If I play decent, I can win that match" -- in Stanford and reiterated in L.A. were really shabby. It showed a complete lack of respect, not only for Davenport -- a worthy opponent, not some journeywoman who happened to play the match of her life -- but also for the circumstances. When a former No. 1 player and a long-time rival, who is closing out her career, wins one of her last tournament finals 7-6 in the third, you don't denigrate her like that.

Here's the funny thing: Venus plays poorly at Wimbledon, gets jobbed by the chair umpire, loses to a little-known Croatian and could not have been more gracious in defeat. She loses a high-quality final on a hard court to Davenport, and showed what I thought was a pretty stunning, if uncharacteristic, lack of grace.

Is the U.S. Open going to be more wide open than usual due to the number of players who will undoubtedly be exhausted from playing in the Olympics? Is this a chance for an upset winner, à la Thomas Johansson in Australia two years ago? -- Russ Chauncey, Reno

I'm not sure I see the U.S. Open as all that open. Roddick and Roger Federer are clear front-runners and the usual suspects -- sentimental favorite Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, the combustible Marat Safin, a healthy Juan Carlos Ferrero, Guillermo Coria -- are likely to make deep runs. Sure, a long shot (Igor Andreev? Joachim Johansson? Rafael Nadal?) could go far, but it's hard to envision an outsider running the table. Same on the women's side. At the rate she's going Davenport is a legitimate favorite. Sharapova is a good possibility too, as of course is Serena, and a recuperated Justine Henin-Hardenne. A tier down is Venus, Anastasia Myskina, Amelie Mauresmo, Jennifer Capriati and maybe Elena Dementieva. It would be shocking if someone other than the aforementioned made it to the semis, much less won.

Your aversion towards Henin-Hardenne is over the top. The poor kid's been stricken with a debilitating virus and has not been able to play for weeks, yet you still manage to find a way to bring her up, solely in order to disparage her in your last Mailbag. Well done, Jon. You must feel proud. -- Janie, Merion Station, Pa.

I assume you're talking about the story I told last week about how Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters responded differently to a WTA promotional request during last year's U.S. Open. Either you're overreacting, or I told the story poorly. (Or both.) I wasn't trying to disparage JH-H at all. My point was that Clijsters' instinct to please everybody -- while generally admirable -- might exact a price on her tennis. She is a deer in headlights, so to speak, and the question she fields weekly about being "too nice" is legitimate. By contrast, JH-H's more businesslike approach is ultimately more conducive to winning Slams. Re.: JH-H, it's hard not to admire a player who stands 5-foot-5 on a good day and has won three of the last four Slams she's entered. And it's good to see it looks like she'll be back for the U.S. Open.

Why is Sharapova great for women's tennis and Myskina isn't? With all due respect to Myskina's French Open title, I don't sense she will start dominating the women's game or win a string of Majors. Sharapova, on the other hand, is a ferocious, Jimmy Connors-like competitor, who has achieved spectacular results barely one year into her career. Admittedly, the "babe factor" plays a role, but if you had to pick five favorites to win this year's Open, Sharapova makes the list and Myskina doesn't. -- Rich, New York City

There was plenty of discussion about this last week. I agree with both camps. Sharapova is a brighter prospect than Myskina, and the circumstances of her Grand Slam -- playing unflustered tennis against the two-time defending champ -- was more dramatic. On the other hand, if you don't think there is a sexual/looks component to all this hype I have a Prince Boron to sell you.

I'm attending the Masters Series tourney in Canada. Have you been to this tournament? Anything uniquely good about the atmosphere? Anything to avoid? Any general tips about the place? -- J. Stewart, Springfield, Va.

I'm headed there as we speak. I'm eager to see the new stadium. Early reader review: It's a vast upgrade from the previous venue but lacks enough public water fountains and sufficient seating on outside courts. The TMS Toronto is a swell event. The problem is that the York University site is a serious hike from the center of Toronto. I stayed downtown my first time and drove upwards of an hour each way.

Toronto is a great town, though. We asked our unofficial Canadian correspondent, Jalen Rose, for his top spots to eat. He claims "you can't go wrong near the water, you have the usual places like Ruth's Chris and Morton's Steak House, and I like a place called Acqua."

Re: Maureen's question about the ill-conceived timing of the Wimbledon movie release: Of course the studio wanted to release the film to coincide with Wimbledon -- excuse me, The Championships -- but there is a fear among studio execs (real or imagined) that a film will suffer if the same leading actor is in another movie in theaters at the same time. No doubt the studio decided to release Wimbledon later because the film's star, Kirsten Dunst, was already on 8,000-plus screens in a little independent film called Spider-Man 2. -- Your Friendly Neighborhood Cinemaniac, New York

Makes sense. Thanks, YFNC.

Why hasn't Taylor Dent broken through with a big tournament win or a deep run at a Major. He has all the strokes -- is his noodle a little stringy? -- John, New York City

The guy barely beats Jaden Gil Agassi in a television ad, so how's he supposed to cut it on the Tour? Seriously, at some level, we should all root for Dent, if only because he has the guts to play serve-and-volley tennis, thus doing more than his share to add variety to the show. Some of his problems may be a result of the fact that this is a risky strategy, especially against sharp return men.

Not sure if this qualifies as a "stringy noodle," but I think Dent came into '04 with lofty goals and was devastated by his match against Roddick at the Australian Open. (Roddick crushed Dent 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 in the round of 32.) That was a "test," and the results were pretty grim. Eight months later I'm not sure Dent has fully recovered.

I know you're not a big fan of quiet, efficient, not-so-colorful tennis players, but could you please give Amy Frazier some props? The woman has been around forever and is playing some awesome tennis this year. She should receive the Most-Unlikely-to-be-a-Tennis-Player award. I walked right past her at La Costa in San Diego last year and didn't even realize it was her until about 10 minutes later. She is always so poised and calm and deserves some kudos. -- Katherine, Seattle

You're kidding, right? We love the quiet, efficient types. I feel like we've been throwing bouquets Frazier's way an awful lot lately, but we'll gladly do it again. Don't look now, but she could be in the top 20 after this week.

What's up with Tommy Haas' little girl ponytail? Was Arnold Schwarzenegger referring to him when he talked about "girlie-men"? -- Bob Romero, Monee, Ill.

The Governator would never describe a friend like that. That reminds me of a photo I recently saw from the Nasdaq event: Elena Likhovtseva, Coria, Nadal and Federer -- I think it was -- swimming with dolphins. Want to guess who had the shortest hair?

True or False: Vince Spadea will participate in the year-end Tennis Masters Cup (featuring the top-10 players in the world) but will not be selected for any Davis Cup play this year. -- Johnny Ballgame, Atlanta

That would be a nicht, nicht.

I'm skeptical Spadea finishes the year in the top eight, or even the top 10 for that matter. But your point is well-taken. Spadea's '04 results match up favorably with any American player not named Roddick. Pat McEnroe's desire to go with a youth movement is fine. But as Spadea keeps steadily winning matches and the Fish-Robby Ginepri-Dent troika keep struggling, the decision is getting increasingly tough to justify.

Why isn't San Diego's Acura Classic, a WTA Tier I event, included in the U.S. Open Series? The series is a great idea, but I can't understand how the Tier I AT&T Cup in Canada is considered part of the series, and the Acura event is not? And what are the opinions of the smaller tournaments that are not a part of the series? Are they angry they may not get top players to compete at their sites anymore? -- David Forrest, Melrose, Mass.

In response to your first question, I think the contrary. The big appeal of the U.S. Open Series is the television packaging. The San Diego promoters already had a television partnership set up and essentially said, "What exactly do we have to gain from this partnership other than having to deal with U.S.T.A. overlords?"

As to your follow-up questions, the summer European tournaments are not big fans of the series for obvious reasons. Granted, this summer is all screwed up because of the Olympics. But if you look at the fields of the U.S. Open Series' events, it doesn't look like any player is motivated to enter the North American events based on the Series' bonus pool.

Does anybody know where I can get vintage tournament posters, rather than individual player posters? I loved the Roland Garros poster this year, but I couldn't find a way to buy it on the French Open Web site. -- Puneet Manchanda, Chicago

I've gotten a couple of these. Can anyone help Puneet?

I'm probably too late to make this week's Mailbag, but I bought Deuce magazine yesterday from a D.C. bookstore. I was amazed to find it there since I've only found it online over the past two years. Don't you think that's a good start for increasing the game's popularity -- or at least a sign that tennis is a bit more in the spotlight? -- Linda, Washington, D.C.

Sure. Deuce is a terrific magazine, remarkably well-done for an in-house publication. And if you're interested in obtaining a copy but can't find it in your local bookstore, click here.

That's the news. Have a great week, everyone!

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